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Legislative Day: Students and Faculty Visit the State House to Promote the School of Medicine

Friday, January 16, 2009

 Representative David D. Rudolph, Vice Chair for Economic Matters, lent an ear to students.

View the Video! Students Meet with LegislatorsDean Reece Honored on the House Floor

Dean Reece and more than 50 students and faculty members traveled to Annapolis January 15, 2009, to speak with members of the Maryland General Assembly about issues important to the University of Maryland School of Medicine. In face-to-face meetings with lawmakers, students discussed funding levels, the impact of physician shortages, and the need for new research facilities.

"Everybody seemed eager to talk with us and get our opinions," said Litty Smelter, a fourth-year student. Smelter and her fellow students urged the lawmakers to maintain current funding levels for the education of health professionals. Adequate funding is essential to preserve quality medical care, particularly for underserved populations. Dean Reece reinforced that message in his meetings with legislative leaders.

Legislators were honest – often brutally so – about the bleak economic outlook for Maryland, including a $1 billion deficit in a state budget that by law must be balanced. Yet most lawmakers remained receptive to what the students had to say.

Students asked for help to address physician shortages, particularly in the rural areas of Western and Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore. "I want to see incentives to encourage us to come back and practice in rural areas, and to support potential medical students in those areas," said Mamta Jhaveri, a second-year student from Southern Maryland. Shetold the representativesthat many of her high school friends never considered medical school, not only because of the cost but because they had never seen someone from their area pursue that path.

Students also urged representatives to consider funding for Health Sciences Facility III, a new state-of-the-art building dedicated to biomedical research. Although the initial cost would be high, lawmakers were optimistic that the project would pay for itself through job creation, and new research funding.

Students and faculty were invited to the House and Senate chambers, where the School of Medicine was formally recognized. Dean Reece was honored with a proclamation for his service as chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges Council of Deans.

At the end of the day, the students felt good about their glimpse into government. β€œIt's been a lot of fun,” said Smelter. "It's really interesting to see how government works and to feel that you're an important part of the legislative process."

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 Representative D. Page Elmore welcomed the students' input.

 Bruce Jarrell, MD, Executive Vice Dean, gave students pointers before they set out to speak with their representatives.

 Dean Reece and students Laura Caputo (far left) and Hadas Skupsky seemed happy with the way the day turned out.

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